I know a few of the readers of the blog have been wanting to see how I respond to the report of Jeff Gural threatening the horsemen at Vernon Downs with closing the track unless they manage to get the horsemen associations who oppose changing New York law to allow him to race his horses at tracks owned by him in New York, in particular Vernon Downs. Some believe I give Jeff Gural a free pass when he does things wrong. Well, they are wrong, and this instance proves it.
After pondering this for a few days and getting confirmation from a third party regarding the letter's contents, let me put it this way (delicately), this was not Jeff Gural's finest moment. In fact, Gural should take back what he wrote in the memo sent to horsemen stabled on the grounds at Vernon; a letter which any enforcer would be proud of.
To threaten closing Vernon Downs if Gural's arch-nemesis Joe Faraldo doesn't change course and stop blocking the passage of a bill which would allow him to race at Vernon or Tioga as per conditions in the horsemen' contract is plain wrong. While Gural has had problems with the horsemen's association at Vernon for a long time (as he puts it, "being treated like s**t"), they have not been the stumbling block in this fight; his foes are the horsemen at tracks not owned by him whose horsemen association wrote letters opposing the bill. Truth be told, it may not even be the horsemen at the other tracks, but the leaders of their associations who are sympathetic to Mr. Faraldo's positions.
I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of this regulation; my personal opinion is closer to Faraldo's regarding this bill, but I don't have a bias against Gural. In reality, this battle is all about two strong-minded people having another battle, using this legislation as another skirmish. Unfortunately, the Vernon Horsemen stand to be collateral damage.
Look, any track operator has the right to close a track which continues to lose money year after year, but any decision on closing it should be done based on financials and yes, how your relationship is with your horsemen association overall. Want to send them a letter telling them unless they are more flexible when you want to try initiatives you will be forced to close? Fine. Telling them you are going to close unless they get your arch-nemesis to fold is just so wrong.
Hopefully cooler heads will prevail. We shall see.